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A Publication
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Book Review: “Selling Students Short” By Richard Hil – Neoliberal Corruption Of
Corporatised Australian Universities

By Dr Gideon Polya

 29 May, 2015

Australian sociologist and academic Dr Richard Hil's “Selling students short” is a devastating account of how 1.3 million Australian university students ( 25% full fee-paying students from overseas) are being grossly deceived, manipulated  and ripped off by dishonest, mendacious, anti-intellectual, neoliberal Lib-Lab (Coalition and Labor Right) governments with the active complicity of money-obsessed university bosses who can be seen as grossly over-paid and parasitic refugees from scholarship.

UK-educated Dr Richard Hil's “Selling students short. Why you won't get the university education you deserve” [1] deserves great praise as a powerful, must-read  critique of Australian universities as highly flawed and indeed corrupt teaching institutions.  However the student-focussed “Selling students short” can be  criticized at the outset for largely ignoring the historical  core functions of universities as communities of expert and dedicated scholars who do research and thence communicate their wisdom to students and to the public.

Scholarly collectives go back thousands of years but the first European universities date back to the 11th century. The prime functions of universities are to (1) research, (2) teach and (3) inform the public. Indeed if these functions were reduced to just research, then communication by publication of the resultant scholarship would necessarily also involve teaching and informing the public. However universities have now become crucial for educating an increasingly sophisticated and high technology workforce and for supplying expertise for societal problem-solving and rational risk management crucial for the safety and security of society. Of course, critical to all 3 functions is honesty, free inquiry, and free expression.

Indeed an outstanding, former “traditional” Australian vice-chancellor, Professor John Scott, who was intimately familiar with British university traditions, commented thus about Australian universities 15 years ago: “The prime roles of a university are threefold: to teach, to conduct research and to provide service, including constructive criticism, to the community . The teaching role has been severely threatened. Fundamental research is now difficult to conduct. Critical comments by university staff have been censored. It is time that governments recognised that universities are not just an expensive luxury, but a highly important part of our national activity'' (see [2]).

Accordingly, before reviewing “Selling students short” in detail, it is important to succinctly list some Elephant in the Room propositions about the deceit of degree-selling Australian universities not canvassed by Richard Hil because of his strict focus in this book on student attitudes and current Australian  universities as neoliberal, corporatist, fee-for-service, degree-selling, financially constrained and ethically challenged  teaching institutions.


1. Every nation needs a complement of expert scholars, technologists and scientists for  economic, health, national security, social decency, cultural and reputational reasons.  However, why should impoverished students have to pay for this national scholarly complement?  If we force impoverished students to pay for the national scholarly research complement that takes a bit of time off from research to teach them, why not get them to also pay for the medical system, police, judiciary and defence forces that actively protect them 24/7?

2. All education can and should be free. Indeed Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural  Rights (ICESCR) insists that education should be free at the primary level with progressive introduction at the  secondary  and tertiary levels [3], noting that Australia is one of the richest  countries on earth and can certainly afford to make all education free and, that education underpins economic, health and cultural rights.

3. Many countries, both rich and poor,  have  made tertiary education free for their citizens, the list including (GDP per capita  in US dollars in parentheses): Argentina ($14,760) , Brazil ($11, 199), Cuba ($6.985), Denmark ($59,921), Estonia ($19,328), Finland ($49,265), France ($42, 399), Germany ($45,091), Greece ($21,722), Libya ($12,029 before devastation by the France, UK, US (FUKUS) Coalition), Mauritius ($9,593), Norway ($103,586) and  Sweden ($60,566) [4, 5] but not Australia ($65,600).

4.  Top quality undergraduate tuition in Australian universities can be provided for 10% of the current cost by using casual academic teachers or for 1% of the current cost by using expert academics to provide ethical accrediting examination   of   student understandings from top  quality courses made available for  free on the web  (Massive Open Online Courses, MOOCs) by top institutions like 152-Nobel-Laureate Harvard and 83-Nobel-Laureate MIT. Governments and university bosses deserve scrutiny from regulatory  agencies like the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for gross, collusive over-pricing  of undergraduate  tuition [6].  

5. As noted throughout “Selling students short”, many students (as many as 90% of a class)  may be absent from lectures after the first week of semester as students are forced to work to make ends meet (66% of students work [1]) and can download lecture notes and other teaching material from the web. Accordingly, top quality off-campus teaching and learning   can be provided at negligible cost (circa 1% of current cost)  by simply making on-campus teaching material (lecture notes, model exam questions, synopses, book lists etc  that are presently available to on-campus students)  also available for free on-line for off-campus  students in a system of Accredited Remote Learning (ARL) [7].

6.  Free speech is vital for scholarship as well as for democracy and a safe society. Censorship is antithetical to scholarship, research, science and science-based rational risk management crucial for societal safety. However censorship and intimidation are entrenched in Australian universities. Such censorship  must be exposed and stopped e.g. the egregious censorship applied by the universities-backed and universities-funded web magazine “The Conversation” [8]. Universities that censor are unfit for our children [9, 10].  Things got even worse  for free speech in Australian universities in 2012 with the passage with bipartisan support from the Lib-Labs (the then Labor Right Government and conservative Coalition Opposition) of the Australia-United States  Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty-related Defence Trade Controls  Bill that make it an offence punishable by 10 years in prison for an academic without a permit to inform non-Australians  (in conversation, tutorials, lectures, conference papers, scientific papers etc) about numerous  technologies and thousands of chemicals and organisms  listed in a presently 353-page Defence and Strategic Goods List [11].

7. As noted in “Selling students short”,  the present user-pays Australian university system heavily discriminates against  the poor.  However the extent of this has recently been  revealed in statistics showing that of the 75% of the 1.3 million university students in Australia who are Australians, over the last 10 years about 84 % were from middle-to-high socio-economic status (SES) areas with about 16%   from low SES areas [12].   

8. As noted in “Selling students short”, there are differing  admissions, teaching and research standards at Australian  universities. However in contrast to 152-Nobel-Laureate Harvard and 83-Nobel-Laureate MIT, only 3 of Australia's proliferation of 41  universities are associated with Nobel Prize-winning scholars for research  actually done in the institution  or a closely linked institution, namely the University of Western Australia (Barry Marshall and Robin Warren),  the Australian National University (John Eccles, Peter Doherty and Rolf Zinkernagel) and The University of Melbourne (Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet) .

9. Australian university fees were abolished by the reformist Whitlam Labor Government before it was removed in a CIA-backed Coup in 1975. Fees were re-introduced by the pro-US, neoliberal Hawke Labor Government but with a Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) enabling students to repay their debt in small instalments when able to do so. Australian students presently have an average HECS debt of $15,200 which is repaid over an average of 8.3 years  but the present ultraconservative Coalition Government (with the support of nearly all vice-chancellors) wants to deregulate fees and increase the interest rate on the HECS debt with the prospect  of $100,000 degrees. But scrupulously kept from public awareness is Australia's  damage-related Carbon Debt due to accumulated greenhouse gas (GHG)  pollution that now totals  A$7.2 trillion, is increasing at A$385 billion each year  and which will inescapably have to be paid by young Australians  and future generations,  with the Carbon Debt for under-30 year old Australians increasing at A$38,000 each year [13].

10. Lying  is totally prohibited in the traditional academic ethos but lying by omission is disgracefully entrenched in look-the-other-way Australia and in Australian universities. Further to deficiencies in  economic, social and cultural  rights [3] and human rights in general, that are underpinned by free education,  Australia is only ostensibly democratic (actually being a Plutocracy,  Murdochracy, Lobbyocracy and Corporatocracy in which Big Money purchases people, politicians, parties, public perception of reality and political power) and has an appalling human rights abuse  record  that is enabled by extraordinary Mainstream media, politician and academic lying by omission over the following Elephant in the Room realities:

(a ) Australia as a UK lackey or US lackey has invaded 85 countries (with this associated with 30 genocidal atrocities that are largely ignored by Australian Mainstream media, politicians and academics) [14-18];  

(b) Australia  is involved in its Seventh Iraq War since 1914 (post-1914 Iraqi deaths from violence or imposed deprivation now total 9 million with half the dead being children) and via its Pine Gap spying facility has been crucial for the targeting  of  illegal US drone attacks in a swathe of Muslim countries (Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan  and Pakistan) [18, 19, 20];  

(c) Australia has been complicit in major post-WW2 US atrocities, namely  (deaths from violence or war-imposed deprivation in parentheses) post-1950 US Asian wars (44 million), the post-1990 War on Muslims (12 million), the post-9-11 US War on Terror (10 million) [14, 21, 22];  

(d) Australia  is involved in an ongoing Australian Aboriginal  Genocide  and Australian Aboriginal  Ethnocide (in the century after the British invasion in 1788 the Australian Aboriginal population dropped from about 1 million to 0.1 million through dispossession, deprivation, introduced disease and violence; since 1788 some 2 million Indigenous Australians  have died untimely deaths; and  White Australians have destroyed 600 out of 750 distinct Australian Aboriginal groups - and associated languages and dialects -  and of the remaining 150 all but 20 are endangered, this qualitatively representing the worst genocide in human history) [14, 23, 24];

(e) Australia highly abusively imprisons  refugees, including children,  without charge or trial, in remote concentration camps;

(f) Australia  is responsible for 1.6% of historical greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, is a world leader in annual per capita GHG pollution, with 0.3% of the world's population, is responsible for 3.0% of world GHG pollution,  and in 2011 it exceeded its “fair share”  of the world's terminal Carbon Budget (Carbon Pollution Budget) that must not be exceeded if the world is to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise [25, 26, 27];

(g) Australia backed Apartheid South Africa and now is the second biggest supporter after the US of nuclear terrorist, racist Zionist-run, democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel;

(h) Australia is afflicted with horrendous entrenched child sexual  abuse with 34% of women and 16% of men (half the adult population or 4.4 million in all) having suffered sexual abuse as children [28] (the ABC reports testimony from Dr Carolyn Quadrio, from the UNSW School of Psychiatry to the Ballarat hearings of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that “10 to 20 years less life for a child who's been traumatised… Twenty-five to 30 per cent of girls and about 5 to 15 per cent of boys suffered some form of sexual abuse…  with 30 per cent of girls and 20 per cent of boys abused [in institutions]” [29];

(i) despite only 1 Australian  having ever been killed by a Muslim-origin non-state terrorist in Australia (in Sydney in December 2014) Australia has committed to a long-term accrual cost of the War on Terror of $125 billion as of 2012 (that is increasing  at about $11 billion per year), with this fiscal perversion being inescapably linked to 80,000 preventable Australian deaths each year and 1.1 million since the US Government's 9-11 false-flag atrocity [30, 31], and has enacted draconian anti-terrorism laws that severely constrain civil liberties, privacy, basic human rights  and free speech [32];

(j) Australia has an entrenched Educational Apartheid system that means that means that 46% of Australians are functionally illiterate and 53% are functionally innumerate; that 80% of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory fail to meet basic literacy and numeracy standards; and that the majority of Australian children who attend State-run schools (as opposed to taxpayer-subsidized private schools) are disproportionately excluded from a good education, university, good universities and top professional courses such as medicine and law [33, 34, 35].

Having succinctly catalogued these woes and deceptions relating to Australia and Australian universities, we can now turn to a chapter-by-chapter review of Richard Hil's “Selling students short” that heavily relies on actual student perceptions from numerous interviews. However one should note that most students and prospective students in look-the-other-way Australia and overseas – and indeed most Australians - would be utterly unaware of most of the matters outlined in items 1-10 above, a shocking testimony to an utter  failure  of Australian universities to inform the public about a range of Elephant in the Room realities.

Prologue. Richard Hil's prologue recounts a conversation with an undergraduate psychology student in a Macquarie University (North Ryde, Sydney)  refectory who states “Generally I come in for some lectures and tutorials  and then just leave… [re absence of university friends] There hasn't been a constant group of us here because people, chop and change courses all the time or do their learning online, or they have to go to work … I reckon that when I leave uni it'll be like it never really happened … It's really just preparation for a career … I need to do an honours [research-based 4th year]  and then a couple more years of internship [including a Masters] before I can be registered. It all feels like a bit of a waste, really, because I've got no intention of carrying on studying to become a psychologist” (page ix, [1]). This sets the tone for the book in relation to  significant student off-campus online learning, the need to work to make ends meet, lack of social interaction, lack of engagement or inspiration, and lack of career prospects with an undergraduate degree (first degree).  

Introduction.  Richard Hil's Introduction outlines the emergence of neoliberal, profit-driven, corporate universities  who employ marketing specialists to promote “brand” and “market share”. Richard Hil comments: “Soon after enrolling, students discover the drab realities of university life: poverty, loneliness, and isolation, language difficulties, the desperate search for decent housing, lack of transport, precarious and exploitative employment, and the absence of appropriate legal and social services. Inflated class sizes, hefty fees and charges, inadequate campus facilities, poor levels of student support, and constant restructures, course changes, staff cuts and industrial disputes add to the dispiriting mix” (page 9, [1]).

Chapter 1, “Brand power”, describes  how universities shamelessly market  themselves and lower entry standards to maximize student numbers and income.  The sub-section “Selling flexible entry” exposes how, aided by government deregulation of the system,  greedy Australian universities  are lowering entry standards (measured by Australian Tertiary Admission Rank or ATAR, on a scale of 0 to 100) and dishonestly and unethically earning money from fees from very weak students with a high probability of dropping out: “We're still very much in the dark when it comes to knowing  how students with lower ATARs perform at university … However, the ever-alert Andrew Norton at the Grattan Institute has concluded that, between 2005 and 2011, one in three students with ATARs below 60 dropped out, while a whopping 50 per cent of those with scores of 50 or less called it quits. Predictably, those with scores above 90 had a 90 per cent chance of completing their studies. No amount of obfuscation and denial on the part of university administrators can blunt the enormous significance of these figures … at the University of Ballarat, nine courses are offered with scores below 50, with some as low as 30. In late 2013, the proportion of low performing students accounted for more than two thirds of new growth figures” (pages 23-24, [1]). Australian universities are collusively selling tertiary education products at hugely exaggerated prices  to very weak students with a high probability of failure – deceptive behaviour that invites  investigation and prosecution.

Chapter 2, “The variegated consumer” is a shocking account of student poverty and the lengths to which students will go to make ends meet e.g. the quotation from a newspaper report that “Up to 40 per cent of the female sex workers in Melbourne's brothels attended the city's eight universities and other educational establishments” (page 35, [1]), and the statistic that “about 20 per cent of first-year undergraduate students will drop out of university”. While tuition fees   are paid via the HECS loan system,  students also face substantial extra fees and expenses that are not covered by HECS and Richard Hil observes that “working-class students are more likely to drop out of university than their middle-class peers” (page 47, [1]).

Chapter 3, “The great student surveyathon”, deals with how student experiences and opinions have been extensively surveyed  e.g. the University of Queensland's Student Evaluation of Teaching and Course Questionnaire, the University of Melbourne's Melbourne Experience Survey (MES), the Australian Council for Education Research's University Experience Survey (UES) (that found that “17 per cent indicated that they had considered leaving [university]” (page 60, [1]))  , Graduate Careers Australian's Graduate Course Experience Survey (GCES) , the First Year Experience in Australian Universities (FYEAU)  survey (that notably found that “lectures are now less central to first-year study …more students report that it is possible to skip classes because notes are on the web, though there is not evidence they are doing so” (!!!; page 65, [1]), and the 2012 National Union of Students Quality Survey Report. Course evaluations are now commonplace but there is evidence that academics are responding  to the pressure to be more “popular” by giving easier courses and better grades. Richard Hil quotes an academic saying “Why should academics accept ritualized bullying as simply part of the job” (page 73, [1]).

Chapter 4, “Traversing the campus mall”, describes the provision of shops,  other commercial services and sporting and other facilities on campus, and physical student “engagement” with the university via clubs, sport, and other activities. The reality of two thirds of students being forced to work to make ends meet means that there isn't much time for “engagement”. Richard Hil quotes a journalist  stating that “A university is about students, but increasingly, the students aren't there” (page 95, [1]). Richard Hil comments; “The decision to stay away from campus because of work, distance, online access and individual choice has been further encouraged by some of the new, irritating foibles of the modern university. Even prior to the removal of caps [on enrolments] in 2012, many campuses found themselves swamped by increasing numbers of students (146,000 more since 2007), demanding all kinds of facilities and support services. Bloated classes, packed study centres, poorly resourced laboratories and studios, infrequent student consultations, lengthy queues at the library, confusion over timetabling, and constant computer system crashes irk many of today's higher education consumers” (p95, [1]).

Chapter 5, “Inside the virtual world”, criticizes the option of off-campus, online-based teaching and learning.  Richard Hil encapsulates the critique thus; “Cyber technologies may allow students to communicate in a computer-generated space, but this can only approximate the complex richness of human interaction” (page 97, [1]). However this ignores the fundamental Oxford and Cambridge notion  of “reading for degrees” – indeed undergraduate  learning, postgraduate learning and life-long learning for professional reasons or purely out of interest all depend on reading books and scholarly articles. 15 years ago I made the following suggestion in an ABC broadcast: “Australian universities have begun to financially exploit the avenue of Web-based education. However a well-established, extremely cheap scheme for provision of high quality tertiary education (for those capable of doing it) is the option of Reading Only Tertiary Education (or ROTE). The acronym, ROTE is paradoxical, and the option profound because the student will buy the detailed syllabus and the prescribed top textbook by an international scholarly and didactic giant, study in a deep, holistic, absorbed and reflective fashion and ultimately sit a thoughtful accrediting exam set by a research-informed expert, and all of this for a mere $100 per unit. Compare this with the astonishingly marked-up, proposed price of $10,000 per on-campus course unit for fee-paying students at a top university. What would the ACCC have to say about such a one-hundredfold price mark-up? Of course the bottom line is that university education requires educators who are active researchers” (one notes that my mischievously named upper-case ROTE is the complete anti-thesis  of parrot-like “rote” learning). With as many as 90% of students failing to attend lectures,  any course lecture notes presently  provided online to ostensibly on-campus students for what may soon become $100,000 per degree could be immediately provided for free by Australian universities in a process of Accredited Remote Learning (ARL) of the kind that has been offered to students all around the world for many years [7].  

Chapter 6, “A nice little earner”, outlines the Golden Goose of Australian universities conning overseas students (presently 25% of university students in Australia) to pay full fees for degrees. Richard Hil comments; “There's no doubt about it: international students are big business, contributing a whopping $15 billion per annum to the Australian economy and keeping many universities afloat in a cutthroat  global market. According  to the International Education  Advisory Council, international student numbers are set to rise by about 30 percent circa 2020, adding even more to university and business coffers” (pages 119-120, [1]). However greed may yet kill this Golden Goose laying  golden eggs for Australian universities.  Overseas students often come from only modestly wealthy families, pay full fees, need to pay for other course expenses and living expenses, and are subject to many abuses on campus (e.g. deception, soft assessment, easy grading, weak approaches to plagiarism, dumbed-down courses) and off campus (grossly exploitative housing and employment).  Thus , as exposed by Richard Hil and by the ABC Four Corners TV program “Degrees of deception”, overseas agents can falsify academic records for entry and English language skills can be seriously  deficient with this, for example,  resulting in major plagiarism and producing dangerously incompetent nursing graduates [36]. Corrupt abuses in relation to overseas students require investigation and prosecution by law-enforcement agencies. Of course, as discovered by Richard Hil, overseas students with a good comprehension of  written English can find the Australian accent hard  to understand and have difficulty with the speed of spoken English (this of course makes “reading for degrees” a present-day reality and makes Accredited Remote Learning very attractive for overseas students as well as for geographically isolated, deaf, blind and otherwise disadvantaged or disabled students [7]).

Chapter 7, “Limits to learning”,  outlines deficiencies  in teaching at Australian universities, notably the casualization of the teaching workforce. Thus Richard Hil comments: “The bulk of undergraduate teaching (up to 80 per cent in some first year units) is now undertaken by casual [part-time] employees, some of whom are only one step ahead of their  students … They are rarely included in school meetings or in the design and development of curricula. But worse – especially as students are concerned – the majority  of the 67,000 or so mostly female casual workforce have little time to engage with students beyond formal teaching hours, rarely have private office space, and are concerned, above all, with “survival”, often holding down multiple jobs , doing work for which they are not paid adequately, if at all, and straddling the competing demands of work-life balance” (page 140, [1]). Missing from this critique  is the traditional and sound  position that university teaching should be by research-informed academics. In a sub-section entitled “Performance-based and soft assessment” Richard Hil observes that: “Claims made by academics and by others that university education is being systematically  “dumbed –down” and quality  reduced are commonplace… one of the prickliest of these is the oft-stated assertion that teaching staff are complicit in setting “soft assessment” just to get students through courses” (pages 152-153, [1]). Thus a solid second year science course that 40 years ago would have been 80% assessed  by a sudden-death 3-hour exam, survived until recently with solid content but with  exam-based assessment reduced to 65%,  but then the formal examination part of the assessment was further reduced to a derisory 20% with the remaining 80% deriving from attendance and take-home assignments.  This extremely dodgy area of “selling degrees” deserves serious investigation  by Australian criminal investigation and corruption agencies like ICAC and the ACCC.

Chapter 8, “The pleasures and perils of a PhD”, surveys the current lot of postgraduate students. There are some surprising statistics for Australia (population 24 million) e.g. “Between 1948 and 2009, Australian universities awarded 94,000 PhDs. Traditionally, most PhDs were in the sciences but by 2009 these accounted for less than 30 per cent of total completions… By 2009, overseas students accounted for 28.3 per cent of all PhDs, with particularly  strong growth in the areas of business and commerce… The average age of a PhD candidate is 35 years” (page 163, [1]).  Even 40 years ago I would advise prospective PhD students  that the best arguments for doing a PhD were to see how far you could go intellectually and  to achieve this  award through being  part, even if only transiently,  with the great, historical,  international scholarly  enterprise. However Richard Hil observes that “The sad fact is that many PhD graduates find secure work hard to come by. As noted by the Australian Council of Learned Academics in 2012, many PhD graduates, especially among the growing numbers of science PhDs, face the grim prospect of casual teaching, short-term research positions, or nothing at all” (page 177, [1]). Not commented upon were “Masters degrees by course work” that have devalued the research-based MA and MSc awards, especially with first year-level course components.

Chapter 9, “Graduation – now what?”, provides some daunting statistics about the fate of university graduates from Graduate Careers Australia (GCA) and other sources. Thus Richard  Hil reports 2013 data  from  a survey of Australian resident graduates): “Four months after course completion, more than 70 per cent of Australian resident graduates had found full-rime employment, and about 20 per cent of those looking for permanent jobs were in part-time or casual jobs” (page 181, [1]).  However “For graduates with more popular degrees such as psychology, architecture, visual and performing arts, and social sciences, the  search for relevant work was especially gruelling. About one-third were employed in unrelated fields and the average starting salary  was as low as  $32,000 in the case of architecture graduates and $38,000 in visual and performing arts” (page 181, [1]).  Richard  Hil notes the over-supply of dentistry graduates and law graduates  and observes that “The oversupply of law graduates – most of whom are unlikely to get jobs in their  chosen field – suggests that law, along with psychology and  social sciences, will become the “new arts degree” (page 183, [1]).  In the sub-section entitled “Underwhelmed employers”, Richard Hil states that “Employers observed that over recent years growing numbers of applicants simply did not possess the knowledge, skills or work-related experience to be deemed eligible” (page 187, [1]) and that “A combination of chronic over-supply, and shrinking employment opportunities has left many graduates  extremely disillusioned, especially  those with degrees in accountancy, business, education, engineering, teaching, speech pathology, journalism, art and design, social science, dentistry, psychology and, of course, law” (page 189, [1]).  Richard Hil  concludes with observations that “One thing seems certain: opposition to the neoliberal university is on the rise… The student protest movement is back” (page 197, [1]). However even 40 years ago it was apparent that a basic first degree was not enough.

The  Epilogue draws these various threads together. Richard  Hil complains “But beyond industry-relevant skills, students are being denied access to an education that enables them to become informed and active citizens in a thriving democratic society. .. Lost in this is the capacity of many students  to critically reflect on the world in which they live” (page 201, [1]).  Of course, the same deficiency is imposed on  the Australian public in general by Mainstream media malreportage and lying in Plutocracy, Murdochracy, Lobbyocracy and Corporatocracy Australia. Richard Hil bemoans  this lack of education for critical thinking and civic engagement and concludes “Stripped of such qualities, the modern university becomes what it was never intended to be  - the  servant of economic power” (page 205, [1]).


Richard Hil's “Selling students short” is an excellent and timely book about Australia's financially and ethically faltering, neoliberal, corporatist  universities as seen from the perspective  of their “clients”, the remorselessly deceived and ripped-off students. “Selling students short” is a very useful and hard-hitting sequel to sociologist Dr Richard Hil's scathing “Whackademia” [37, 38] and to neurobiologist Dr Donald Meyers' “Australian universities. A Portrait of Decline” [39, 40] that both record the decline in academic standards and ethos  in the money-driven, neoliberal and corporatist Australian universities (that take their cue from like Western universities).  

Australian universities are in the business of “selling degrees” and like other “businesses” should be held legally accountable by regulatory  agencies like the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for malpractices such as  complicity or lack of due diligence in relation to:  dishonest advertising; fraud over overseas student academic records and English language proficiency; dumbing-down of standards, soft-marking and plagiarism, that have deadly potential  with nursing graduates with inadequate English proficiency and training; dumbing-down of entry standards in callous disregard of the high probability  of failure  for very weak students; duty of care in relation to student poverty and exploitation;  and failure to address very unsatisfactory graduate employment  outcomes. However the greatest crime of Australian  universities involves collusive and outrageous over-pricing of undergraduate  education which is currently  being offered at 10 to 100 times the cost of top quality tertiary education based on free access to top quality teaching materials and minimal cost, expert accrediting assessment [2, 7].

Every nation needs a complement of expert scholars, technologists and scientists for  economic, health, national security, social decency, cultural and reputational reasons, but  impoverished students should not have to pay for this national scholarly complement. All education can and should be free and this ideal is indeed emplaced by over a dozen countries throughout the world. Successive neoliberal, anti-science and anti-intellectual Lib-Lab (conservative Coalition and Labor Right) Australian governments and corporatised Australian universities – and their neoliberal counterparts throughout the world - are indeed “selling students short”. Students, scholars and sensible,  science-informed  citizens must insist on free speech, equal opportunity, untrammelled scholarship,  and free education for all from pre-school to life-long learning.


[1]. Richard Hil, “Selling students short. Why you won't get the university education you deserve” (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2015).

[2].  Gideon Polya, “Crisis  in our universities”, ABC Radio National “Ockham's Razor”, 19 August 2001: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/crisis-in-our-universities/3490214  .

[3]. “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural  Rights”, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Covenant_on_Economic,_

[4]. “Free education”, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_education .

[5]. “List of countries by GDP (nominal) per capita”, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29_per_capita .

[6]. Gideon Polya, “Letter To Young People Over $220 Trillion Carbon Debt: Revolt (Peacefully)”, Countercurrents, 11 July, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya110714.htm .

[7]. Gideon Polya, “Accredited Remote Learning”: http://accreditedremotelearning.blogspot.com.au/  .

[8]. “Censorship by The Conversation”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/censorship-by  .

[9]. Gideon Polya, “Current academic censorship and self-censorship in Australian universities”, Public University Journal, volume 1, Conference Supplement, “Transforming the Australia University”, Melbourne, 9-10 December 2001: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/57092/20080218-1150/www.publicuni.org/jrnl/volume/1/jpu_1_s_polya.pdf  

[10]. Gideon Polya, “Censorship in Australian universities”, MWC News, 29 October 2012: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/22488-gideonpolya-censorship.html  .

[11]. “Impact of the Defence Trade Controls Bill on academic freedom”, NTEU: 10 October 2012: http://www.nteu.org.au/article/Impact-of-the-Defence-Trade-Controls-Bill-on-academic-freedom-13461  .

[12]. Nick Parr, “Who goes to university? The changing profile of our students”, The Conversation, 25 May 2015.

[13]. “Carbon Debt Carbon Credit”: https://sites.google.com/site/carbondebtcarboncredit/ .

[14]. Gideon Polya, “As UK lackeys or US lackeys Australians have invaded 85 countries (British 193, French 80, US 70)”, Countercurrents, 9 February, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya090215.htm .

[15]. Gideon Polya, “Review: “The Cambridge History Of Australia” Ignores  Australian Involvement In 30 Genocides”, Countercurrents, 14 October, 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya141013.htm .

[16]. Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, that includes  an avoidable mortality-related history of every country from Neolithic times and is now available for free perusal  on the web  : http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com.au/  .

[17]. Gideon Polya, “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History. Colonial rapacity, holocaust denial and the crisis in biological sustainability”, G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 1998, 2008: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/2008/09/jane-austen-and-black-hole-of-british.html .

[18]. Gideon Polya, “Australia's Seventh Iraq War”, MWC News, 28 February 2015: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/50028-australias-seventh-iraq-war.html .

[19]. Phillip Dorling, “Pine Gap drives US drone kills”, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 July 2013: http://www.smh.com.au/national/pine-gap-drives-us-drone-kills-20130720-2qbsa.html  .

[20]. Gideon Polya, 50 Ways Australian Intelligence Spies On Australia And The World For UK , Israeli And US State Terrorism”,  Countercurrents, 11 December, 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya111213.htm .

[21]. Gideon Polya, “US Memorial Day – Also Remember Scores Of Millions Of Civilian Deaths In US Wars”,  Countercurrents, 26 May, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya260515.htm .

[22]. “Muslim Holocaust Muslim Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/muslimholocaustmuslimgenocide/ .

[23]. “Aboriginal Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/aboriginalgenocide/ .

[24]. Gideon Polya, “Ongoing Aboriginal Genocide And Aboriginal Ethnocide By Politically Correct Racist Apartheid Australia ”, Countercurrents, 16 February 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya160214.htm  .

[25]. “Years left for zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for all countries relative to the year 2013”, Carbon Debt Carbon Credit: https://sites.google.com/site/carbondebtcarboncredit/years-left-to-zero .

[26]. Gideon Polya, “$10 Trillion Annual Carbon Debt Increase For Young People On A Threatened Planet”, Countercurrents,   8 July, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya080714.htm  .

[27]. “2011 climate change course”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/2011-climate-change-course .

[28]. Gideon Polya, “Horrendous Australian child sexual abuse”, MWC News, 15 November 2012: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/22859-gideonpolya-sexual-abuse.html  .

[29]. Jane Lee, “Child abuse victims live “shorter lives” than other children, Royal Commission hears”, The Age, 25 May 2015: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/child-abuse-victims-live-shorter-lives-than-other-children-royal-commission-hears-20150525-gh8y1d.html .

[30]. Gideon Polya, “Horrendous Cost For Australia Of US War On Terror”, Countercurrents, 14 October, 2012: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya141012.htm .

[31]. Gideon Polya, “Australian State Terrorism - Zero Australian Terrorism Deaths, 1 Million Preventable Australian Deaths & 10 Million Muslims Killed By US Alliance Since 9-11”, Countercurrents, 23 September, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya230914.htm .

[32]. Gideon Polya, “Terror Hysteria -  Draconian New Australian Anti-Terrorism Laws Target Journalists,  Muslims And Human Rights”,  Countercurrents, 08 October, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya0810114.htm .

[33]. “Educational Apartheid” : https://sites.google.com/site/educationalapartheid/home .

[34]. Gideon Polya, “37 Ways Of Tackling Australian Educational Apartheid And Social Inequity”, Countercurrents, 22 May, 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya220513.htm .

[35].  Josh Fear, “Choice overload. Australians coping with financial decisions”. The Australia Institute, Discussion paper 99: http://www.tai.org.au/documents/dp_fulltext/DP99.pdf  .

[36]. Linton Besser and Peter Cronau, “Degrees of deception”, ABC TV Four Corners, 1 May 2015: http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2015/04/20/4217741.htm .

[37]. Richard Hil, “Whackademia” (University of New South Wales Press, 2012.

[38].  Gideon Polya, “Book Review: “Whackademia” reveals parlous state of Australia 's censored, under-funded & dumbing-down universities”, Countercurrents, 14 December 2012: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya141212.htm  .

[39]. Donald Meyers,“Australian universities. A Portrait of Decline” (AUPOD, 2012): http://www.australianuniversities.id.au/Australian_Universities-A_Portrait_of_Decline.pdf

[40]. Gideon Polya, “Book Review: “Australian Universities. A Portrait Of Decline” By Donald Meyers”, Countercurrents, 4 February, 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya040213.htm .

Dr Gideon Polya has been teaching science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contributions “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/australian-complicity-in-iraq-mass-mortality/3369002#transcript

) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/4047-the-plight-of-the-palestinians.html ). He has published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/social-economic-history/listen-the-bengal-famine ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya's huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeaceplanetmotherchild/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonpolya/ .


Dr Gideon Polya










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